[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B0057VR9JW][/pullquote] Pixar are the world’s most successful computer animated studios. Created from an off-shoot of Lucas Films, Pixar have seen all of their films released to massive commercial and critical success and their yearly releases provide one of the highlights of the film calendar. John Lasseter is the chief creative officer for both Disney and Pixar and has credit on almost all work created by Pixar since its creation. One of Lasseter’s pet projects was Cars, an homage to American automobiles that proved to be a huge merchandising success, even if the film received generally less praise than any of the other Pixar films. Such success has lead to the creation of a sequel, Cars 2.
Cars 2 plot is split into two distinct threads that tie together at various points. In the first, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is lured to compete in a World Grand Prix by former oil tycoon-turned-green power advocate Miles Axelrod (Eddie Izzard) where the cars run on an alternative fuel known as Allinol, competing throughout with Italian prima donna Formula 1 car Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro). In the main story however, McQeen’s best friend Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) is employed by British secret agent Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) to discover who is trying to sabotage the Grand Prix by using EMP pulses, which react with the allinol to cause engine explosions.
While Lightning McQueen may be on all the advertising, Cars 2 is very much Mater’s story. There are references throughout to ˜lemon’ cars (meaning prone to breakdown) and they form the antagonists, tired of being the butt of every joke for their unreliability. Mater comes to realise that he, whilst reliable, is seen as a fool to even his closest friends. It’s slightly heavy-handed and the references to cars throughout will make little or no sense to anyone who knows nothing about automobiles.
The computer graphics in Cars 2, as you would expect, are incredible. The various famous places visited throughout the film are stunningly realised with some names changed for comedy effect, like Big Bentley replacing Big Ben. It’s a testament to Pixar’s incredible eye for detail that the world feels completing real and utterly convincing from the start and it’s amazing how far the effects have come since the original Toy Story. Cars 2 is also populated with blink and you’ll miss it visual gags throughout, including a Pope-mobile, carried by its on Pope-mobile. It is sadly the story that surprisingly lets the film down.
Unlike the majority of Pixar films, this one is not that funny and jokes are replaced with endless parodies of the James Bond series. In fact there are more jokes in the six-minute short Toy Story Toons: Hawaiin Vacation than in the full-length film. The action feels stretched and many scenes drag with little or no impact on the overall story. It’s a shame but this is the first Pixar film not to stand up to its peers, and doesn’t even rank in the top three animated films of this year.
It’s easy to forgive a misstep from the studio that has the highest average box office returns of any studio in history, but it’s not that this is simply a bad film, it’s also a shameless cash-in on the merchandising power of the original film and whilst kids will play with their Lightning McQueen toys for the next couple of months, none of the characters have the staying power of a Buzz Lightyear, a Dory or a Wall-E.